Desperate immigrant deaths continue in the Mediterranean Sea. Three bodies have been pulled from a boat which ran aground near the Italian island port of Lampedusa — they were found under the hull. The Italian coast guard had said it managed to save all the passengers on Saturday night, 528 people, with many women and children among them. Last month there were 800 deaths recorded. Some 60 of those have been especially controversial.
British newspaper The Guardian has been looking closely into the drama surrounding a group of migrants — mostly Ethiopians — who set out from Libya in March only to die of thirst and hunger, abandoned, according to the paper.
A mixture of bad luck, bureaucracy and indifference are said to have sealed their fate. According to The Guardian’s investigations, 72 people, including 20 women and two babies, set out from Tripoli aboard this vessel on 25 March. It soon ran low on fuel.
By satellite telephone, the migrants reached an Ethiopian priest in Rome, who alerted the Italian authorities. They said they later alerted Malta the boat is heading that way, but the Maltese deny this.
A military helicopter then dropped bottles of water and packets of biscuits, signalling that help was on its way. But no help arrived. Around the 29 March, the migrants saw a NATO force aircraft carrier; two jets took off; the migrants held the babies in the air, calling for attention. But the mystery ship receded into the distance.
Most of the boat passengers died. On 10 April, the boat washed up on a Libyan beach, with only 11 survivors.
The Guardian concludes that the aircraft carrier was the French navy’s Charles de Gaulle, but the French authorities have remained tight-lipped. NATO has firmly denied letting these people perish at sea, saying no such vessel was in the area at the time. No country has said its people were in contact with the boat.